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Anal Biochem. 2007 Sep 1;368(1):95-9. Epub 2007 May 26.

Nuclear localization of enhanced green fluorescent protein homomultimers.

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Department of Biochemistry, University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf, D-20246 Hamburg, Germany.


The green fluorescent protein (GFP) and its variants are used in many studies to determine the subcellular localization of other proteins by analyzing fusion proteins. The main problem for nuclear localization studies is the fact that, to some extent, GFP translocates to the nucleus on its own. Because the nuclear import could be due to unspecific diffusion of the relatively small GFP through the nuclear pores, we analyzed the localization of multimers of a GFP variant, the enhanced GFP (EGFP). By detecting the fluorescence of the expressed proteins in gels after nonreducing SDS-PAGE, we demonstrate the integrity of the expressed proteins. Nevertheless, even EGFP homotetramers and homohexamers are found in the nuclei of the five analyzed mammalian cell lines. The use of fusion constructs of small proteins with multimeric EGFP alone, therefore, is not adequate to prove nuclear import processes. Fusion to tetrameric EGFP in combination with a careful quantification of the fluorescence intensities in the nucleus and cytoplasm might be sufficient in many cases to identify a significant difference between the fusion protein and tetrameric EGFP alone to deduce a nuclear localization signal.

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